The Past and Present of AI Art (2/2)

3000 BC — the Talking Nodes of Quipu

Quipu is a method for keeping and passing information used by the Inca people in ancient times. Quipu uses nodes of different colors and materials. Sometimes there can be hundreds of nodes that were tied in different ways and at different heights to express differences in meaning. Quipu can not only record date, number and account balance but also serve as the medium for abstract thoughts and record the folklore and poetry of local cultures.

1842 — Poetical Science

Analytical engines can execute mathematical calculation orders on punctured cards. In 1836, a portrait of Joseph Marie Jacquard, inventor of the first weaving machine, was woven using 24,000 punctured cards. In a sense, this portrait is the world’s first digital image.

1929 — A Machine That Could See

In 1929, Austrian engineer Gustav Tauschek invented the photoelectric reading machine.

1950 — The Imitation Game

In 1943, the concept of an AI neural network was first raised. Combining algorithms and mathematics, it uses “threshold logic” to simulate the thought process of human beings. The gate to AI was thus pushed open.

1953 — Reactive Machines

Gordon Pask was one of the early pioneers of cybernetics. As a psychologist and educator, his research involved bio-computing, AI, cognitive science, logic, linguistics, psychology and artificial life. He incorporated information from various media sources into his cybernetic theories and expanded the scope of the study.

1968 — Cybernetic Serendipity

In the 1960s, under the influence of cybernetic art, many artists started creating “artificial life” artworks drawing their inspiration from animal behaviour, or viewing the system itself as art.

Cybernetic Serendipity (1968)

1973 — An Autonomous Picture Machine

More artists began to try using machines to create art. Some of their ideas still influence present-day art.

Picture: Untitled 1972, an early example of computer art, made by the first code-based drawing program developed by Vera Molnar
040502 by AARON (2004)

The Age of Deep Learning

By the late 20th century, thanks to the popularization of personal computers, this industry began its fast development. More and more artists started using software programs. Into the 21st century, the availability of free learning materials for programming in combination with open-source projects on Github helped the industry grow.

Chatting bots

1995 — A.L.I.C.E

2020 — Expanded Art

Since then, many more artists have created chatting bots. Martine Rothblatt modelled his bot Bina48 after his wife’s personality. Martine Syms developed an interactive chatting bot to be her digital avatar. The bot is named Mythicbeing and was designed to be a black, upward, violent, solipsistic, anti-social and gender neutral woman.

A virtual friend in your iPhone

Generative Art

Artists can collaborate with AI in various ways, using neural networks and machine learning to create artworks. Examples of this include Neural Style Transfer, Pix2Pix, CycleGAN and Deep Dream. So far generative adversarial network is the technology most relevant to AI art.

2014 — Generative Adversarial Network

Generative adversarial network is a term coined by Ian Goodfellow in a 2014 thesis. He believes that GAN will be the next step for neural network, as the technology can be used to create visual effects that were possible before.

Anna Ridler, Tulips from Mosaic Virus (2018)
GAN used to generate landscape paintings

2017 — GANism was born

Around 2017, artists began testing this technology.

GANism Is The New Art Trend

2018 — A Milestone of Auctioning

The most well-known example of GAN-generated art is a portrait by Obvious which sold for 432,000 at Christie’s in 2018.

Obvious Art’s [ ())] + [( − (()))], Portrait of Edmond de Belamy, Generative Adversarial Network print on canvas (2018).

Beyond Generative Art

In recent years, more and more artists see the purpose of AI as not merely to create images, but also to put an end to the innate prejudice people hold against AI. How this movement is carried forward will have long-lasting influences on social justice, equality, tolerance and many other important issues.



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